Posts filed under ‘domain names’

Brand Loyalty and Domain Names

I just finished reading an interesting post about “building an army of brand loyalists” on the CityMax Blog, posted by  Grasshopper’s Ambassador of Buzz, Jonathan Kay. The post got me to thinking about the power of a domain name in building that buzz that Jonathan (and Grasshopper) is famous for (click here to read their coming out party and one if my favourite examples of buzz building).

For those that don’t know Grasshopper, they are the group that sent 5,000 chocolate-covered grasshoppers to key influencers across North America. They are also the ones who still make my hair stand up every time I watch their video about Entrepreneurs Changing the World.

A large part of the value of a generic domain name comes from the emotion or understanding that it conveys to your audience. Over at TeeTimes.net, people instantly get that which we do: we do golf tee times. But what about Grasshopper? They don’t sell grasshoppers. Yet still, as a generic domain name, it is a very powerful.

I wonder, would Grasshopper have the brand loyalists they do were they still called GotVMail? I mean, they still could listen to their customers, add value, and the rest of the points made by Jonathan, but would they still have as many loyal followers? Personally, I don’t think they would have.

Unfortunately, branding of this sort is one of those things that can’t happen in a vacuum and use normal scientific methodology (two identical companies, each executing the same strategies with the same product lines, and the same principles driving the company). I guess this is one of those philosophical chicken-and-egg type questions. What came first: brand loyalty or the domain recognition?

I think one of the points that Jonathan made is very important and it relates back to what we are doing at CityMax.com. Jonathan wrote:

“…The more you know about your customers, the more likely you will be able to set them up with other customers who might be able to help each other out. That is a memorable connection. Here at Grasshopper we have gone as far as to set up a formal program: Tell Us Your Story. This gives our entrepreneurs an opportunity to tell us what makes them unique, and how they are changing the world. Not only do we promote them to the media, but now we also have real stories and examples of entrepreneurs living their passion. Actively trying to help your customers businesses grow is a definite way to create a brand loyalist.”

At CityMax.com, we have been promoting many of our small businesses to media and to other customers (and we will be doing even more so in the coming months). We believe that “every website tells a story” and what makes the story interesting is not the website itself or the CityMax.com website builder technology driving the website, but what the individual entrepreneur was able to accomplish with the tools. One such good example of this was the “Homepreneur of the Year” award that CityMax.com handed out last year to Marco Barberini. Marco’s story is inspiring to other entrepreneurs.

So what do you think? Would Grasshopper have achieved brand loyalty under the name GotVMail?

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March 30, 2010 at 4:09 pm 1 comment

What to look for when buying a domain name

I often get questions from people about my opinion on domain values, domain valuation, and what to look for when buying a domain… especially from people who want to get into the domain speculation and aftermarket business. I just wrote the following response to a colleague that I thought I would share:

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{Billy Bob},

In my opinion, there are very few names that are available in the primary market that are considered ‘investment domains’. There are discounts in the secondary market, however, as many people who purchased domain names as speculators over the past couple of years with the assumption that they would be able to monetize a domain via parked revenue. This revenue has decreased by 50% in the past year, so many of these holders are over-leveraged and liquidating some assets.


The names that are good, in my opinion, are ones that reside where there exists a clear consumer intent of what the domain offers. Something like “JuiceCalifornia.com” does not communicate this. CaliforniaJuiceCompany.com does communicate that value. In the former, a person does not know what resides at the destination, in the latter, one would expect to see a California Juice Company.


There are also three measures of value in my opinion:

  1. Value to you – If you build out the domain with a business that is enhanced by the domain itself. Can you use the domain to build it out with SEO and turn it into a real company (using the domain to drive relevancy, organic traffic, and better quality score results for your PPC campaigns), giving you a competitive advantage in an even playing field.
  2. Value to others: a domain that is worthless to me might be MayneIslandPlumber.com. However, to a plumber on Mayne Island, this domain could be worth a fair bit. Domains that sell to the end user always generate considerable more revenue than names that are resold to other speculators. So make sure if you are buying a domain for resale rather than development, think about how many potential buyers you might have. With the above example, there may be only 1-2 plumbers on the island described above. If the don’t buy it, the domain is relatively worthless.
  3. Value to the collective: Some domains, namely those with direct navigation, linked, or organic traffic have value based entirely on its ability to be monetized at a set rate through various parking services. Your chances of finding a domain like this are slim as software automated this many years ago and unless you can find a just born concept (new words, new trends, etc). And if you would get a domain that monetizes at a certain rate, many of the large domain owners could out monetize you anyway (their advertising revenue share will always be greater than the small player), so they are capable of paying rates that you would not.

I tend to like the domains of the first point above, identifying domains that could be built out that communicate a clear value proposition and give you brand presence allowing you to compete with the big boys right off the bat. My model lately has been to identify under-performing business assets (e.g. poor parking revenue producing names] that have these traits:  sufficient search volume, high transactional value, and others who have blazed the trail for you and proved that there is economic activity online for your domain.

If you are considering buyin a domain, there are a few good acid tests right off the bat to see if a domain has value:

  • Search for the exact match domain on Google (i.e., search “keyword keyword” with the quotes. If there is advertiser depth, as in more than one advertiser, at least someone thinks that this search phrase has relevance and has value (they are paying for it afterall), and probably could be monetized.
  • Use the Google keyword tool [or similar tools] to see if people are searching on the concept that the domain represents, using both exact and broad match search values. Obviously, the more people searching for the term, the better
  • Ask a friend that if they went to “UniqueDomainName.com”, what would they expect to find. A good landing page should meet consumer expectations and match relevance. The domain name is a good start for this. When I ask a golfer what they expect to find at my golf reservations website  teetimes.net… the answer is simply, “I don’t know… tee times?”
  • And the final one, that could be done quickly, is ask yourself, “How big is the market, is it growing, and do people turn to the Internet for information on the core economic aspect represented by the domain?” For my SMS marketing and text messaging venture, Texts.com, the market is expected to be a $150 billion market by next year and 20 billion texts were sent in Canada last year alone (growing at 100% per year

I hope this helps.

John

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Anyhow, I am not sure if this helps anyone else or not, but my few minute reply to my colleague turned into a pretty long, rambling email. I thought it would be good to share this knowledge with others. What do you think… agree or disagree with any of the points?

March 21, 2009 at 10:55 am Leave a comment

International Text Messaging and SMS Marketing Service

Happy New Year! A new year brings new opportunities, a new US President, and new business ventures — one of which launched today under the domain Texts.com.

I have been working on this domain for several months now and am excited about the possibilities. While I have described much of the thinking that went into the business over on the Texts.com blog (so I won’t regurgitate here), I did want to highlight some of the more marketing- and domain-centric thoughts that went into the business development.

Like many ideas, the business started with a great domain name [tip to Seth Godin]. And when you have a great domain name, you can jump-start your business and your marketing activities. In this instance, the domain even has significant enough direct navigation traffic for people who are looking for the products and services that we are promoting. In this instance, the navigators are looking primarily for text messaging-related services (though some are looking for textbooks).

Of course a domain like this also has the added benefit of ranking well in search engines (having a key search phrase in the domain is helpful for ranking well). And for any paid search marketing efforts, it will receive more clicks due to the perceived increase in relevancy by the searcher. And of course, there is the simple psychology of the end user in play, lending legitimacy to the business over competitors who are not so effectively branded.

One of my domain development colleagues identified that the number one thing that he looks for when he procures and builds out a domain name is “size of market” … and does the domain adequately reflect the market. While there is some debate about what constitutes “Text-Messaging revenue”, one has to think that the Amsterdam-based Acision has it pretty close when they predict that total revenues could double to $165 billion in the next three years [by 2011].

Any way you slice it, that is a lot of texting.


January 6, 2009 at 6:00 pm 1 comment

The Golden Ears Gateway, Maple Ridge BC

I attended the Ridge Meadows Chamber of Commerce’s mini-tradeshow and networking event tonight. It was mostly a chance to get ou of the house after being headsdown busy for the past couple of days, but I have been trying to make a point on keeping connected within the business community (though normally I attend events that are in downtown… not out here in Maple Ridge).

Anyhow, one of the things that attracted me to the event tonight was to hear a speech by the President, Dean Barbour, on the Chamber’s current direction and mandate. While I won’t regurgitate, I did like what I heard. One of the key things that resonated with me was Dean’s vision and discussion of “The Golden Ears Gateway”. Basically, anything that is within site of the Golden Ears Mountains, should be within the marketing catchment of the Chamber and local businesses. And a big part of the growth will be in using the new website to promote the region and its businesses.

And then Dean announced, “The Chamber website will be re-branded under www.openforbusinessmrpm.com

I don’t know if Dean or anyone else in the room saw me convulsively twitch when this was announced. Pardon? That was “Open For Business Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows .com” in case you missed it the first time. Part of me almost feels bad for going home and registering GoldenEarsGateway.com. I guess this now complements the other local domain I registered the other day: http://www.MyMapleRidge.com

Me thinks I am going to get involved with the Chamber and help them with their marketing.

October 24, 2008 at 1:59 am 1 comment

TRAFFIC New York 2008 – Domain Auction Results

This past week the TRAFFIC Domain Conference in New York held several auctions. And while I wasn’t in attendance, I do think that some of those who were, grabbed themselves some good domains at very reasonable prices. A few that jumped out to me were:

RentalCondos.com ($11.5k) – Big business and big sales here with a clear consumer intent in an activity that is happening more and more online

Wines.net ($13k) – It is not as good a deal as beef.net, but it is a very big industry with a lot of search traffic. Good opportunity for consumer site, product referrals, community building, simple service brokering the import/export B2B of products. Focus on recommendation engine for wine matching, etc.

CatFood.com ($15k) – Niche category-owning domain. Clear intent of what the browser is looking for. Can be an ecommerce play using outsourced fulfillment. Whoops… this one didn’t sell. The reserve was north of $75k

MufflerRepairs.com ($2.25k) – Yellow Pages category name. Large local play component

Rent.me ($6k) — A different extension, but could be a very brandable classifieds-type site facilitating apartment, equipment, etc rentals. It wouldn’t take many Hawaiian condo rentals to pay for this investment.

Men.org ($12.5k) – Yes it is a .org, but this should still be able to develop a loyal audience with content, heath issues. It kind of defines the audience. I can see a marketing campaign in Cosmo targeted at women who don’t understand Men. A steal at that price.

Decorators.tv ($200) – I’m including this one as this already exists as a category for cable TV, and I know that you could put a pre-existing social media YouTube type package up on it quickly… and I have a client who is considering building out a TV program focused on this niche.

SeafoodRestaurant.com ($3.5k) – One should be able to make your money back on this focused on local search and OpenTable affiliate programs.

Beef.net ($2.75k) – wow… A low price on this one. Beef import/export is big, big business.

A note to any of the successful bidders… if you want assistance in building out any of these projects, let me know.

Edit: DomainNameNews has a good run-down of the complete list that sold here

September 26, 2008 at 12:58 pm 1 comment

Golf Course Calendar Feeds at TeeTimes.net

It really is amazing how quickly the summer goes. Between trips to the waterslides, barbeques, and launching new web ventures, time just flies.

In July, an opportunity came up for me to acquire the TeeTimes.net domain name and build a new web business around it. It took me less than a month to pull some deals together, negotiate the purchase of the domain, and build out a fully-functioning web business. The end result can be seen over at www.teetimes.net.

TeeTimes.net is a prototype on two fronts:

  1. First, it is the first known example of using Calgoo Software’s In-Calendar Marketing in a live environment. In-Calendar Marketing is a new marketing medium that allows for the delivery of marketing messages right into the electronic calendars of your most passionate adopters. For TeeTimes.net, an avid golfer can select their favorite golf course and have that course’s available tee times deposited right into their calendar. In this way, they are only one click away from booking a tee time, providing us with transactional revenues with every booking. Our goal is to facilitate one booking per golf course per week (we can presently integrate with more than 1000 golf courses).
  2. Secondly, it is a prototype of my philosophy that you can quickly deploy functioning businesses that are fully self-sustaining enterprises. Will TeeTimes.net ever grow into that $10M company that people are always trying to create? Probably not. But by using marketing automation, outsourcing, and 100% profit-assured marketing tactics (without employees), it can grow enough. After all, if I can book one round of golf for 1000 courses every week, and the typical golf course pays out upwards of 10 to 15% commission for referred bookings, the returns can be substantial.

If you are interested in booking a round of golf, I invite you to use the TeeTimes.net website. If you want to chat more about my philosophy for launching web businesses like this (or if you have a quality generic domain name that you want to partner with me on developing), drop me a line.

BTW… To see how TeeTimes.net uses in-calendar marketing, watch this screencast here:

http://www.screencast.com/t/tDGpL17x

August 27, 2008 at 3:29 pm Leave a comment

Reliable Flagging, Maple Ridge BC, Phone: (604) 466-3524

Reliable Flagging of Maple Ridge, BC, has turned me into a momentary domain squatter today, and I’m not proud of it.

It all started around four years ago when we moved into our new home, sampled some VOIP technology that was before it was time, and had to get a new phone number. The number that was assigned to us apparently use to be owned by a Maple Ridge flagging company called Reliable Flagging (as in traffic control to make sure construction happens safely).

The phone calls started coming in immediately. At least one per week that we answered, and that is with call screening where we ignore pretty much every number that we don’t recognize. After the umpteenth wrong number we found out that their phone number in the phone directory was still listed as our number. We contacted the phone company and they said they would fix it … they didn’t say that this fix would take two years mind you.

Anyhow, even after this correction in the phone book, we kept on getting calls. “Is this Reliable Flagging?” No. No. No.

I am not sure if it picked up more over the past few months or it is just that I am working from home more often and now sitting next to a phone without call display, but the calls seem to be increasing in frequency. And then I had a phone call this morning from a prospect looking for flagging services. In the midst of a Seinfeld flashback with Kramer answering the mis-dial for MoviePhone, I thought I would help him and Reliable Flagging out by trying to find the real “Reliable Flagging”, or if I couldn’t, at least source someone from another flagging company who could help him.

So I started searching. First it was a basic “Reliable Flagging” search on Google. The first response was from a company called iBegin that had a listing for Reliable Flagging. The phone number listed… yep… our phone number. A few listings down, there was another listing, our phone number once again.

I think I realize what is going on. Apparently, a trend started a couple of years ago where people are taking advantage of some loophole in copyright law where they were sending out-of-date phone books overseas and having the whole thing copied in tandem to reproduce their own directory listing. These copies then form the basis for many of the web directories that are popping up in various places [note: I’m not saying this is what iBegin has done]. In any case, wrong numbers are being perpetuated, and now thanks to the power of web search (especially local search), they will never go away.

So after I hung up the call today, I did some more internet research for Reliable Flagging, and found a phone number that was also out of order. And the I found another one that didn’t ring through. I then called a competitor who ranked at the top of organic results for the search phrase “Traffic Control Vancouver” (who I will not promote by naming them for reasons that will come clear below). They expressed that Reliable Flagging was no longer around. Which made sense to me, and I didn’t doubt this given the calls that I received.

And this is when I became a Domain Squatter. I registered the domain name ReliableFlagging.com. My intent was to try and use the medium to my advantage. If I could outrank the earlier listings, I had hoped the calls would stop. This is also why Reliable Flagging and Maple Ridge Flagging Services keywords are peppered throughout this blog post. Fight fire with fire.

And then in a further act of defiance, I posted my tale of woe on Craig’s List with an offer for any flagging company who wanted these phone leads to let me know, and I would be more than happy to sell them to them.

A mere 6 hours later I had a phone call from someone who worked for Reliable Flagging. While I was happy, they were pissed that I was trying to make money from their name. I said, “Good news… you’re in business! Tell me your number and I will tell everyone who calls what the new number is” They didn’t like this, and they refused to give me their new phone number.

Another hour passes by, and I had a phone call from Reliable Flagging’s owner (Jane). As my wife said to me just a few minutes ago, “Ah the immortal Jane Baker.” We felt like we had gotten to know her through her calls… especially for my wife whose first name combined with her maiden name sounds phonetically very similar, especially when it was said with an accent — a factor that only contributed to confusion over the years.

Anyhow, Jane was also not too pleased that I was trafficking on her good name and business. She threatened to sue. I said I am just trying to do the rightful thing [I did take the Craig’s List ad down as soon as I heard that Reliable Flagging was still providing traffic controlling services to Maple Ridge]. I have even offered to transfer over the domain to her at no cost to her and help her with her web presence. I guess I am not very good at this cyber squatting thing. And really, who am I kidding, this is more for my sanity than anything else.

Hopefully, WordPress works its SEO magic, and Reliable Flagging’s traffic control services will be found by all Maple Ridge residents very soon. With the correct phone number. Which, for hopefully the last time, is 604.466.3524.

And for those who weren’t paying attention, the moral of the story is that you should control your web presence. Your yellow pages ads are not enough. It could be a simple website (even a free one). Your audience is searching for you. If they can’t find you, how much business are you leaving on the table?

July 8, 2008 at 10:44 pm 3 comments

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